April 24, 2003
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School board business—
Grant applications approved

At their April 10 meeting, members of the Yellow Springs Board of Education approved for submission to the Yellow Springs Endowment of Education two grants that involve students from Yellow Springs High School and the McKinney School.

“Helping Students Shape their Educational Experience — An Action Valuation of Yellow Springs High School” is a grant proposed jointly by the high school and The ARIA Group, a Yellow Springs-based business that specializes in mediation and conflict resolution. The $9,000 grant would fund a yearlong process of “unique, participatory goal setting and consensus building,” which would take place during the 2003–04 school year.

“The essence of this process is kids reflecting on what they want to get out of their educational experience,” said YSHS Principal John Gudgel. The process would help students consider “how what they’re doing now in high school helps them envision who they want to be,” he said.

The process, called Action Evaluation, would require students, teachers and staff to initially fill out questionnaires that ask them to identify their goals for the future of YSHS for the next three years, and ideas about how those goals could be achieved. Next, small groups would gather for facilitated discussion, which “serves as a team-building function, as it helps the group find common values that all individuals share in regards to the high school,” the grant proposal says.

In the next step, goals of each of the three “stakeholding” groups would be integrated into “shared, unique and contrasting” goals for the high school, according to the proposal. At this point, representatives from the groups would gather together to “examine the values articulated by all three groups, which helps foster understanding and communication in very powerful ways, as students gain insight into the core values of the teachers and staff, and vice versa,” the proposal says. Finally, “action teams” will be formed to implement goals.

The process is the same one The ARIA Group used last year in Cincinnati when it sponsored a conflict resolution process involving various groups of stakeholders in the city, according to ARIA Group employee Vaughn Crandall. The Action Evaluation process has never before been used in a high school, said Crandall. “Yellow Springs High School would be the model,” he said.

School board members expressed enthusiasm for the proposal. “I think empowering our students to become young adults is the most important thing we can do,” said member Bill Firestone.

Mary Campbell-Zopf said, “This looks like a great process, refreshingly clear and very thoughtful. I think it’s just exactly what should be happening.”

Board members also approved a proposal for “An Exploration of Storytelling and the Oral Tradition,” proposed by YSHS/McKinney School art teacher Carla Steiger-Meister. The $3,700 grant would fund several residencies and presentations by professional storytellers during next January and February, and would involve students in both the high school and the middle school.

“Storytelling is a valuable tool that can be used successfully across the curriculum, in language arts, history, science and the arts,” the proposal says. “Storytelling can enrich a student’s life by assisting in creating classroom communities, improving students’ emotional health and enhancing students’ grasp of our social and environmental responsibilities. It is a powerful artistic tool for a student to have.”

The grant proposal “shows leadership and vision,” said Superintendent Tony Armocida, who especially appreciated that the grant “is a school-wide initiative, crossing several disciplines.”

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In other school board business:

• Treasurer Joy Kitzmiller reported that school district finances are “doing fine,” regardless of a recent state cutback of almost $43,200.

“A lot of districts will be in the red this year,” said Kitzmiller, “but we’re all right.”

Kitzmiller’s report stated that an additional $350,000 revenue from real estate taxes has been included in this year’s budget. Previously, Kitzmiller said, a lesser amount had been projected due to an error in the Greene County auditor’s calculation, but the auditor has “now certified the correct amount.” Open enrollment revenue has also increased, by $12,000.

In expenditures, the school district has increased expenditures for benefits by $3,340 due to several employees changing from single insurance to family insurance, Kitzmiller said. A “nonuse of legal services” for the year resulted in an almost $5,000 decrease in expenditures, she said.

• Board members approved the resignation of school bus driver Roger Brown, and approved Jerome Holland and Joe Fodal as substitute bus drivers at $11.67 per hour.

• Board members approved a co-curricular contract for Yvonne Wingard to serve as assistant co-director of the YSHS/McKinney School spring musical, for $932. JoFrannye Reichert was also approved as assistant co-director at $637.

• Board members approved Donna Silvert as volunteer tennis coach.

• For summer school, John Gudgel was approved as a district summer school coordinator for the summer tutorial programs, at $300, and Kevin O’Brien was approved as summer school teacher in physical education.

• The board approved the calendar for the 2003–04 school year, which begins for students on August 27 and ends on June 4, 2004.

• Regarding the construction at Mills Lawn and YSHS/McKinney, “Everything is coming out well. I’m pleased with it,” Armocida said. At Mills Lawn, “lots of progress was made last week” during the good weather, he said, and at YSHS/McKinney, new construction should be finished this month so that renovations of existing rooms can begin.

• The board will next meet Tuesday, April 22, at 6 p.m., at the board office, during which the board will meet in executive session to review teacher evaluations.

The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting, Thursday, April 24, will feature a discussion of the school district’s 2003–04 Education Plan. The plan is available to the public at the board office, 201 South Walnut Street, and at the Yellow Springs Library.

—Diane Chiddister